China Focus: Drugs--the demon at the door

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-26 21:10:15|Editor: Liangyu
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NANNING, June 26 (Xinhua) -- Drug abuse contaminated the relationship Zhang Jun (not his real name) had with his father. A fact that still haunts Zhang years after his father's death.

At the height of his addiction, Zhang, from Nanning, capital of south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, was a waif. His face gaunt, his arms scarred by the tell-tale marks left by decades of intravenous drug abuse. He had little respect for others, and even less for himself.

"I was almost destroyed by drugs," said Zhang, 46, bitterly. "My life was in a mess. My sister vowed to never speak to me again."

His father was a police officer who had spent many years supporting the campaign against drugs, yet his son was caught in the cycle of abuse for three decades.

Zhang's story is not an unusual one.

By the end of last year, China had more than 2.5 million drug abusers, among whom 22,000, or 0.9 percent, were below 18, while the bulk, 1.46 million or 58.4 percent, are between 18 and 35.

Aged 16, after having dropped out of middle school, he was at a party, when someone offered him a small bag of white powder.

"He told me that it would make me happy, but it just made me feel sick," he said. He slept for a whole day.

Curiously, he tried again, and again, until he started to crave it.

"At first, the amount I was taking was very small, but it would make me euphoric for hours," he said. Over time, however, his body became more tolerant and Zhang increased his dose.

"To get money, I told more lies than I care to remember. I stole more than 200,000 yuan (29,300 U.S. dollars) from my own father, and even stole the drugs he had confiscated from other drug addicts," he said.

One stint in rehab came after Zhang was caught trying to steal a bike. As soon as he was released, Zhang took drugs again.

During the 30 years of his toxic affair with drugs, he has seen people loose the battle with addiction. "Some of them died young," he said. "A man and his girlfriend were hallucinating, and they jumped off a tall building."

To make a clean break, Zhang moved to Shanghai. In 2013, his father died of cancer. "I wasn't with him when he died," he sobbed. "I was his only son, and I let him down."

Since then, he has taken rehabilitation seriously, and he is succeeding. Last year, he started a home decoration company, got married and had a son.

Monday is International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

A report by the Supreme People's Court this year showed that from 2012 to 2016, the number of cases involving drugs grew from 76,280 to 117,561, and the number of culprits rose from 81,030 to 115,949. The proportion of drug-related crimes increased from 7.73 percent to 10.54 percent.

Of all the drug-abusers, about 357,000 were sent to rehabilitation centers last year, another 245,000 were ordered to quit in local communities, according to China National Narcotic Control Committee.

"The drugs are not far from us. It was saddening that drugs are spreading to teenagers," said Lu Ming, a police officer with Guangxi regional No.1 rehabilitation center.

He remembered in 2010, a seventh grader developed a nervous twitch and lost consciousness at home. The teenager later died in hospital of an overdose.

In the Guangxi center, 18-year-old Xiao Xuan (not his real name), shared his story. He began taking drugs when he was in eighth grade. "I have spent more than a year in the center and am no longer addicted," he said. "But I cannot promise that I won't return to my old habits after I leave."

Lu Ming told Xinhua that it was a common problem for all addicts. "It is easy to quit drugs physically, but to eradicate the psychological addiction is much harder."

Peer volunteers have proved effective, like Li Zhong (not his real name) who is one of the 30-plus volunteers in Nanning.

Li Zhong was one of the shrewd businessmen who seized the opportunities afforded by reform and opening-up in the 1980s to get rich at a young age. At 22, however, he was addicted to drugs.

"I was busy and couldn't sleep well at night," he said. A friend offered him heroin, saying that the powder could help him sleep well.

He said the powder changed his life. He sold his store, and was jailed three times for theft. His girlfriend who had been with him for ten years and had supported him while he was at rehab left him.

After he quit drugs at 45, he became a peer educator at the Red Cross hospital of Nanning. "I have similar experiences to them. They trust me and would like to confide in me," he said.

"The volunteers are a bridge between doctors, police officers and drug abusers," said Huang Jing, a doctor with the hospital. "For the abusers, their psychological suffering, loneliness, prejudice and social awkwardness held their recoveries back. The volunteers could help.

To Lu Ming, however, prevention is more important than rehabilitation.

"More efforts should be given to the education of the youth, so that they could fully understand the harm of drugs," he said.

Young people, he noted, were ill-informed about the down sides of drug. Some think drugs could help them lose weight, or though it was "cool" to take drugs.

In many places including Guangxi, drug prevention is part of primary and middle school education.

"Students from grade five to eleven must have a minimum of two drug prevention classes," said Yan Qiwei, office director of the Narcotic Control Committee of Guangxi.

Zhang Jun has hired several former drug addicts and they do regular urine drug checks together. He named his company "Yong Shan", which literally means effusion of kindness. In their spare time, they work as volunteers in senior homes.

"In this way we are not only changing people's opinion about addicts, but also purifying our hearts," he said, "to keep the demon of drugs away from us forever."